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49ers make a trade, take Donte Jackson in Pro Football Focus’ latest two-round mock

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The 49ers get another trade haul in the latest mock from the folks at Pro Football Focus. They have them going heavy with the secondary and taking a pass catcher.

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The folks at Pro Football Focus are currently going at it with another mock draft and have just finished the first two rounds. Trades are allowed and the San Francisco 49ers made a decent jump from it, giving the Los Angeles Chargers the ninth pick in exchange for the 17th pick and a second round (48th). For those curious, some of the many draft crushes were gone; Quenton Nelson went at number five to the Denver Broncos and Harold Landry went to the Chicago Bears at number eight. Pro Football Focus’ George Chahrouri was assigned to pick for the 49ers and broke down each of the picks. The mock is ongoing, so we’ll be sure to take a look at their later picks for rounds 3-7 and circle back.

For the 17th pick the 49ers selected LSU cornerback Donte Jackson:

“San Francisco does it again. By trading the ninth pick to the Chargers for picks 17 and 48, the 49ers pick up an extra top-50 pick while still being able to take one of the best cornerbacks in the draft at 17. Using Pro Football Reference Average Value, we simulated the outcome of the trade 100,000 times (for more on the process check out the PFF Forecast Podcast) and found that picks 17 and 48 result in more value on nearly 70 percent of the simulations making the trade a no-brainer.

Aside from quarterback play, coverage stands as the most powerful predictor of winning in the NFL and the 49ers made the lowest rate of positively graded coverage plays in 2017 and the second-highest rate of negatively graded plays in coverage. We recently found that targeting the slot is actually a more lucrative play for offenses than targeting players lined up on the outside. Jackson surrendered a passer rating of just 50.7 on 158 slot coverage snaps (seventh of 106 in the class) and ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, making him an excellent fit for a San Francisco team that allowed a 101.9 passer rating to players lined up in the slot last year (20th)”

The pick certainly shores up the cornerbacks and gives the 49ers Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams and Donte Jackson. Ward is entering the last year of his contract and is in more of a swiss army knife role with the defense. Jackson can learn from one of the best and the 49ers secondary won’t need to be worried about when the 2019 draft rolls around.

Moving into the second round the 49ers used their pick from the Chargers to take another cornerback. This one is Auburn’s Carlton Davis. Here’s what Chahrouri said about the pick:

“Establish the pass, stop the pass. Trading down allowed the 49ers to pick up both a slot corner and a corner with the size and athleticism to play on the outside. With Richard Sherman coming off two Achilles surgeries and last year’s third-rounder – Ahkello Witherspoon – both unproven and unable to man the left and right corner positions at once, this pick is much more of a need than might meet the eye. Last season, opposing quarterbacks generated a 101.4 passer rating when targeting the 49ers outside corner, the fifth-worst mark (the other four teams went 17-47). Davis has the height (6-foot-1) and the coverage skills to learn from the great Sherman and contribute immediately. In 2017, Davis allowed completions on just 49.1 percent of throws intro his coverage. The secondary revamp continues.”

If it wasn’t for the fact the 49ers took Jackson in the first round, this pick would be great. One problem, this pick now puts six cornerbacks on the roster. It certainly future-proofs things and makes the two rookies sit and learn, while having great depth, but with all the other needs, there’s definitely some caution over drafting a two cornerbacks in a row. Edge-rusher Sam Hubbard is available a few picks later, but it seems like he wouldn’t be as safe as Davis. The rest of the picks after the 49ers are mostly running back and wide receiver, positions that aren’t near as much of a necessity.

For the final pick, pick 59 (the one they secured from the New Orleans Saints), the 49ers selected Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman. Here’s what Chahrouri said about the pick:

With both Miller and St. Brown off the board, we took the next best option. At 6-foot-4, Ateman provides a big target for Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone and produced at a very high level last season at Oklahoma State. Ateman racked up 3.50 yards per route run during his senior season, fourth-best in the class. He also provides a nice downfield target, ranking ninth in the class with 455 receiving yards on targets 20-plus yards downfield. (Note: This pick was made before the Reuben Foster news and I likely would have looked to pick a linebacker in this spot with excellent coverage skills).

Even without the Reuben Foster news (which this pick was made prior to knowing about), it’s a bit of a luxury pick. Ateman is one of my personal favorite players in this draft, but I just haven’t been able to fathom a scenario where he goes to the 49ers. The 49ers need help at the offensive line and all three of these picks haven’t addressed that issue. Orlando Brown is available a few picks later as well, who may impress some despite a subpar Combine. If the 49ers aren’t going to go guard, they can definitely go tackle to get Joe Staley’s understudy and eventual replacement.

Regardless, this draft of two cornerbacks in back-to-back rounds reminds me a bit of the 1981 draft. Bill Walsh had enough of the secondary from the previous season and turned around to draft Ronnie Lott (listed as a cornerback), Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson, and Lynn Thomas in four of their first five picks.

You know how that turned out.

We’ll break down the later round picks as well once they are available on PFF’s website.